”With the twenty-fifth anniversary of the signing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace approaching, it is to be hoped that the political parties campaigning in the local elections would use the opportunity to reflect not on the wartime past but on the ensuing 25 years of peace, and offer forward-looking platforms to the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Unfortunately, we have not seen enough positive developments. The impending political campaign period – which has not even officially begun – is already again characterized by divisive, negative rhetoric that deepens existing divisions and makes reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina increasingly difficult. In this backward-looking political environment, other issues, such as gender equality, are completely sidelined, which is unacceptable for a country aspiring to membership in the European Union,” is stated in the fifty-eighth report of the High Representative for Implementation of the Peace Agreement on Bosnia and Herzegovina presented on Thursday.
I am particularly concerned by relations among the political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are increasingly antagonistic and unproductive. Among other issues, there are continued threats of secession, blockages at the State and Federation levels and too much inflexibility on certain positions, none of which contributes to moving the country forward or improving the lives of its citizens.
Highly divergent positions also impede the country’s ability to effectively cope with the security and humanitarian aspects of the increasing inflow of refugees and migrants who enter the country attempting to transit to the European Union. While the Federation in general hosts the largest number of refugees and migrants, the Republika Srpska continues to refuse the establishment of reception centres on its territory and has also actively transported individuals they identify as refugees or migrants to the inter-entity boundary line. The State-level authorities seek the means to return those who have arrived irregularly while still continuing to uphold their obligations under international and national law.
As Bosnia and Herzegovina moves through another election cycle, I must also once again note that the results of the general elections held in October 2018 have still not been fully implemented. A new Federation Government has not been appointed for more than two years, and the Federation Government from the previous mandate is still sitting, along with the previous Federation President and Vice-Presidents; the same is true for governments in the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton and Canton 10. In addition, the Federation President continues to block the appointment of judges to fill the vacancies on the Federation Constitutional Court.
Election matters will remain a concern after the upcoming local elections as disputes between political parties continue to prevent the implementation of important decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is long overdue. These issues, along with the recommendations of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Group of States against Corruption, will continue to dominate discussions between political parties before the next general elections. They will require compromise on matters that highlight the fact that the parties in power have different and often incompatible understandings of the existing Bosnia and Herzegovina constitutional framework, including decisions of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Now more than ever, at a time when Bosnia and Herzegovina is confronting a global pandemic while trying to preserve and strengthen its economy, the authorities must live up to their commitments to building a peaceful and viable State that is irreversibly on course for Euro-Atlantic integration.
I am duty-bound to report that, a quarter of a century since the signing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace, there are still some very negative political tendencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina that potentially pose serious risks to peace and stability. After a decade of positive reintegration, the dynamic in the country has shifted and political forces are attempting to roll back reforms and progress. As a result, and because they rely on power-sharing structures that provide opportunities to block work and decision-making in key institutions, the State and Federation levels, in particular, are in many aspects dysfunctional. Unfortunately, the current policies have a tendency to abuse positive processes, such as European Union integration, to achieve political goals. Meanwhile, political leaders skilfully manipulate differences within the international community, including on such issues as the Office of the High Representative’s role and presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the presence of international judges, in accordance with the General Framework Agreement for Peace, in the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, both of which are institutions that have legal powers to remedy moves that could endanger peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina and/or moves that endanger the constitutional order of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
While the unity of the international community is crucial to positively influencing the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, such influence is increasingly difficult to achieve in the shifting global and regional political environment. Now, more than ever, it is time to call on the political leaders with a single voice to put aside their differences and focus on uniting to face the common challenges of this moment, in the interests of, as is written in the General Framework Agreement for Peace, “an enduring peace and stability”.